Moving Fearlessly Forward: Faculty and UMD's New Strategic Plan
By: Dylan Lewis
This past month the university unveiled its new strategic plan Fearlessly Forward: In Pursuit of Excellence and Impact for the Public Good, a future vision for the university over ten months in the making that emphasizes the university-wide shared commitment to humanity. The plan has a capacious scope, targeting many different aspects of university life. According to the press release by President Darryll Pines and Senior Vice President and Provost Jennifer King Rice, Fearlessly Forward “presents a bold reimagining of what our university must be to uphold and expand our mission of service to humanity.”
Throughout the plan there are recurring themes of collaboration and community. The emphasis on these pillars certainly means thinking about how to continue to rebuild and nurture the UMD community following the COVID-19 pandemic and in the face of other challenges. But as the plan's subtitle states, this orientation also considers the role that the university must play in fostering collaboration and community in local, national, and even international contexts.
Regarding the plan’s goals on improving faculty life at the university, one of the main objectives is to rethink the process of tenure as academia and academic work shifts to new, more accessible mediums and towards more public-facing initiatives. Lucy Dalglish, Dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism and a member on the steering committee, said “Reviewing and reworking tenure standards will better reflect the needs of the university as well as address duties that professors are actually required to perform. It should also result in more women and underrepresented minorities achieving tenure.”
Patricia Alexander, a Distinguished University Professor in the College of Education and a member on the steering committee, provided useful insights on where things go now that the plan has been launched.
From your perspective as a faculty member, what are some of the most exciting things about the plan? How is it different from where the university's focus has been in the past?
What makes the strategic plan most exciting is also what makes this plan different from prior plans and from typical plans created by institutions around the country. Specifically, what I sensed throughout the process of building this plan and in what has emerged in Fearlessly Forward is a true desire and commitment by all those involved to re-imagine what this University can be and should be. It was no longer a matter of trying to be as good as other higher education institutions, or even better than those institutions, based on the traditional standards and criteria that do not necessarily speak to the ideals of a land-grant, diverse, research-intensive university like UMD. We understood that it was time to move forward in bold, innovative, and necessary ways.
Is increased faculty hiring across departments part of the new strategic plan, and if so, how is this being actualized?
UMD cannot function, much less seek to achieve the laudable goals of its new strategic plan, without ensuring that the best and brightest tenured and professional [track] faculty are hired and retained. In many academic units, my own included, it is understood that this University will be stronger and more prepared to meet the grand challenges facing this state, nation, and the world when its faculty members are as diverse as its student body; possess the expertise needed to bring about significant change locally, nationally, and internationally; and recognize how they can contribute to the common good. My department and other academic units across campus are, thus, being purposeful and effortful in their search for new faculty who can help us achieve those ends. We are actively seeking individuals from underrepresented groups who can interject new ways of thinking about research, teaching, and service in our programs. We are also working to create a climate within our academic programs, research laboratories, and classrooms that embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Is there anything else you would like members of our UMD community, especially faculty, to know about the new strategic plan?
Change is never easy. Yet, the guiding principles at the heart of the strategic plan and its stated aims promise to be truly transformative for all members of the UMD community and those this University serves. Therefore, I believe that whatever effort, personal adjustments, or level of commitment the implementation of the strategic plan will require of faculty, students, or staff will be well worth it.
Visit the website for the strategic plan: https://strategicplan.umd.edu/.
Additionally, the more detailed document can be read as a PDF: https://issuu.com/umaryland/docs/strategicplan2022.